The Beatles produced a promotional film clip for “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which served as an early example of what became known as a music video. The film features reverse film effects, stop motion animation, jump-cuts from daytime to night-time, and the Beatles playing and later pouring paint over the upright piano.
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By January 1967, Brian Epstein was under pressure from the Beatles’ record company to release a new single by the group. George Martin told him that they had recorded “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which, in his opinion, were “two all-time great songs.” The decision was made to issue them as a double A-side single, a format the Beatles had used for their previous single, “Eleanor Rigby” / “Yellow Submarine”, in August 1966. The Beatles produced a film clip for “Strawberry Fields Forever”, in a continuation of their policy since 1965 of avoiding the need to promote a single with numerous personal appearances on television. It was filmed on January 30 and 31, 1967 at Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent. The following week, the band shot part of the promotional film for “Penny Lane” at the same location.
The clip was directed by Peter Goldmann, a Swedish television director who had drawn inspiration in his work from Richard Lester’s style in the Beatles’ 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night. Goldmann was recommended to the Beatles by their mutual friend Klaus Voormann. One of the band’s assistants, Tony Bramwell, served as producer. Bramwell recalls that, inspired by Voormann’s comment on hearing “Strawberry Fields Forever” – that “the whole thing sounded like it was played on a strange instrument” – he spent two days dressing up a large tree in the park to resemble “a piano and harp combined, with strings.”
Instead of a performance of the song, the clip relies on abstract imagery and features reverse film effects, long dissolves, jump-cuts including from day- to night-time, superimposition and extreme close-up shots. The Beatles are shown playing and later pouring paint over the upright piano; at one point, McCartney appears to leap from the ground onto a branch of the tree.
In his commentary on the promo clip, music critic Chris Ingham writes: “Beautifully and spookily lit … much attention is given to close-ups of The Beatles’ faces and facial hair, as if the viewer is invited to contemplate the significance of the newly furry Fabs. There’s an appropriately surreal air about the film … which, when experienced simultaneously with The Beatles’ extraordinary new music, is deliciously disorientating. The final scene of The Beatles pouring pots of colored paint onto the “piano” is oddly shocking, but brilliantly memorable as a statement of iconoclastic artistic intent.”